The top tech story this week is not the new Macbooks or the new Redmi device but the fact that Huawei’s smartphone business could cease to exist. Despite being one of the top brands in the world, an executive order by the US President prohibits any US company to deal with the Chinese brand. This, as you’d expect, doesn’t bode well for Huawei as it uses technologies from Intel, Broadcom and Qualcomm along with the Android OS with Play services access from Google. The most recent development is the suspension of support from ARM, which In short, after the temporary license is over (till August 19), US companies will not be able to deal with anything related to Huawei.
The U.S. tech firm Google’s forceful suspension is the pivotal reason of the controversy wherein there will be no Google services access to Huawei phones. Thus the Chinese brand has been put in the ‘entity-list’ by the US president Donald Trump due to the trade-clash. Presumably, neither of the companies would want to break ties given the gigantic losses they stand to incur. The temporary license is likely to allow companies such as Google to continue providing service and support, including software updates or patches, to Huawei smartphones that were available to the public on or before May 16. It also allows Huawei to engage in the development of standards for fifth-generation (5G) telecom networks.
The Android used on smartphones and tablets is made of multiple layers of software. In the west, these software layers are stacked from top to bottom like this:
• User interface which is the part users interact with called Emotion UI (EMUI) for Huawei or Magic UI for Honor.
• Google services – Google Play and the various Google apps (Gmail etc).
• Android operating system.
• System software that controls the various bits of hardware of the phone.
For Huawei users’ questions regarding our steps to comply w/ the recent US government actions: We assure you while we are complying with all US gov’t requirements, services like Google Play & security from Google Play Protect will keep functioning on your existing Huawei device.
— Android (@Android) May 20, 2019
The Chinese company is still prohibited from buying American-made hardware and software to make new products without further, hard-to-obtain licenses which restricts Google Mobile Services (GMS) for the upcoming devices and limits the earlier system updates as well. Albeit it will not have much impact on the customers in China as most of the Google services, for instance YouTube, etc. are already banned in the country, but it’ll be a major blow for its western users.
As stated by the brand, “Huawei will continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products, covering those that have been sold and that are still in stock globally,”.
“In short, this license will allow operations to continue for existing Huawei mobile phone users and rural broadband networks,” Ross said.
Despite of the deprivation of Google’s services, Huawei does not lose all access to Android, as the core operating system is an open source project called the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). Any manufacturer can modify and install it on their devices without having to get permission. Huawei will be able to deliver Android version updates via the AOSP, but will lose early access to the updated versions provided by Google such as the current beta of Android Q. New phones will not be certified, and as a consequence will not be able to have GMS pre-installed that includes a suite of Google’s own apps including:
• The Play stores for apps, music and other media
• Google Photos
• Google Maps
• Google Drive cloud storage
• Google Duo video calls
Some of these services will still be accessible via the web, but many would find that less convenient.
“The U.S. government’s actions at the moment underestimate our capabilities,” Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei said in an interview with CCTV, countering the Pandits’ belief of selling the ‘Android blockaded phones’ being an uphill task, as the company has been preparing for such a scenario since a long time.
Sources said that the company is working on a ‘plan B’ that could come as a rescue for its users alike the one which is already being used in its smartwatches, but the blockade of Android will be the major issue. Moreover selling a smartphone without Google services won’t be a cake walk as in practice, all the major vendors rely on a lot of support from Google.